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Trying to sort all the software needed to get started with AP, help needed to decide what to use.

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#1 Kilohertz

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 02:41 PM

Hi All,

 

I have been spinning my wheels for 2 weeks now reading, researching, buying and trying to figure out how best to get started with AP, mainly DSO for now. There is SO MUCH info out there, and the software seems to change every few months with new features and such, a lot of the good tutorials or youtube vids are a few years old and are already dated. I'm not one of those people who have to have the latest and greatest but I also want as simple a solution as is possible.

 

Here is what I have for primary equipment so far, I won't list all the little accessory stuff:

 

Explore Scientific ED80 mounted on a SkyWatcher NEQ3 PRO with Synscan 

SVBONY SV305 imaging camera

Altair ARO130OM guide camera on Starfield 50mm guide scope

Lumix G7 camera w/Rokinon 135 f/2.0 as well as a few other kit lenses

 

Here is the software I have downloaded and tried to setup:

 

Stellarium

APT

EQMOD

NINA

ASCOM

PHD2

SHARPCAP

 

I have successfully setup Stellarium and EQMOD/ASCOM and can control the mount from the PC. I have setup Sharpcap and have both cameras working, I think I also got NINA working with the cameras. 

 

For right now, I just want some guidance on what to use for basic imaging, and how to use it, I will deal with the post processing later. I would be happy with current tutorials or vids explaining how to do this. It seems everything I have seen has been a bit too specific and details one specific aspect of the piece of software only, can't find anything that ties it all together.

 

I am pretty good with computers, been building and playing with them for 40 years and also am a photographer and old astronomer from the 70's so I have a reasonably good understanding of the requirements.

 

Anyway, I look forward some help to get me on the right track, maybe I should take a few days off to let my head clear. Part of the problem may be the fact that it's been cloudy and snowing and we haven't had any clear nights since I started this venture so I haven't been able to get any star time in, I have just been trying to make this all work in the house.

 

I would like to incorporate autoguiding and plate solving as well to avoid the lengthy 3 star alignment process. Once I get a handle on this and everything working, my plan is to go remote and use a mini PC and remote desktop to run the sessions, but that is a ways off.

 

Thank you in advance for any help you may be able to offer.

Cheers


Edited by Kilohertz, 11 December 2023 - 07:29 PM.


#2 gsaramet

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 02:49 PM

Add ASTAP for platesolving. Best thing since sliced bread
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#3 rj144

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 02:58 PM

I don't think you need Shapcap and APT if you have NINA.


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#4 bobzeq25

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 03:15 PM

You're making this more complicated than it needs to be.  And, regardless of the software, learning the techniques of DSP AP is extremely complex.  Anything to make it simpler is good.  So I'll go the other way.  <smile> 

 

The take home message.  Don't add a lot of software unless you _know_ either that it's necessary, or that it will make your life simpler.

 

Software you need.  There is other software you might want, but this is what's necessary.

 

Something to control the camera and the mount.  Sharpcap Pro is simple, and does the basic things you need right now.  NINA is not too hard and more capable.  Having and knowing how to use both is not a bad idea.

 

A platesolving program  I like PlateSolve 2, there are options.

 

I know you said you were more interested in data acquisition, but I need to give you a heads up about data processing.

 

It's _nothing_ at all like terrestrial photography.  Your terrestrial background can _easily_ lead you astray.

 

Our targets have horrible signal to noise ratio.  We stack frames (and do other things) to address that.  The rules of the game change.  _Dramatically_.

 

Terrestrial photoediting programs are far from optimal.  An astrophotography specific program is much superior. 

 

You need to calibrate and stack frames, then process the stack.  Using one program to do all of it is superior to trying to combine programs written by people without consideration of the other programs.  One program, and everything is designed to work together.  This is significantly better.

 

I recommend Astro Pixel Processor.  There are cheaper options.  Nothing wrong with getting one of them, just don't let the trivial cost of APP be a decision factor.  Get what you think will be best.  Processing is at least half the game.  You have a lot of money invested in hardware.  Processing is at least half the game, so the financial aspect is extremely trivial.

 

I'm sure you have Photoshop, and experience in it.  Here's how that goes:

 

"A HUGE second for AstroPixel Processor. Not only can it do everything you need as described in the last post, but it can do it SO much faster. I've used Photoshop for terrestrial photography, astrophotagraphy and imaging since version 2 (NOT CS2, the ORIGINAL version 2!) so I pretty much know my way around the software. Yet after starting with AstroPixel Processor a few months ago, I can do in 15 minutes semi-automatically what used to take hours doing by brute force in Photoshop. If you place any kind of value on your time, let alone the great results APP produces, it's a much better way to go."

 

Not to mention Photoshop doesn't calibrate and stack.  So you'd need another program for that.  As I said, using multiple programs is a bad idea.

 

I'll close with a recommendation for the best $50 purchase you'll ever make in learning DSO AP.  It's frequently unintuitive and the best cure for that is knowledge.  <smile>

 

https://www.amazon.c...d/dp/0999470949


Edited by bobzeq25, 11 December 2023 - 03:23 PM.

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#5 Andros246

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 04:19 PM

Hi All,

 

I have been spinning my wheels for 2 weeks now reading, researching, buying and trying to figure out how best to get started with AP, mainly DSO for now. There is SO MUCH info out there, and the software seems to change every few months with new features and such, a lot of the good tutorials or youtube vids are a few years old and are already dated. I'm not one of those people who have to have the latest and greatest but I also want as simple a solution as is possible.

 

Here is what I have for primary equipment so far, I won't list all the little accessory stuff:

 

Explore Scientific ED80 mounted on a Skysearcher NEQ3 PRO with Synscan 

SVBONY SV305 imaging camera

Altair ARO130OM guide camera on Starfield 50mm guide scope

Lumix G7 camera w/Rokinon 135 f/2.0 as well as a few other kit lenses

 

Here is the software I have downloaded and tried to setup:

 

Stellarium

APT

EQMOD

NINA

ASCOM

PHD2

SHARPCAP

 

I have successfully setup Stellarium and EQMOD/ASCOM and can control the mount from the PC. I have setup Sharpcap and have both cameras working, I think I also got NINA working with the cameras. 

 

For right now, I just want some guidance on what to use for basic imaging, and how to use it, I will deal with the post processing later. I would be happy with current tutorials or vids explaining how to do this. It seems everything I have seen has been a bit too specific and details one specific aspect of the piece of software only, can't find anything that ties it all together.

 

I am pretty good with computers, been building and playing with them for 40 years and also am a photographer and old astronomer from the 70's so I have a reasonably good understanding of the requirements.

 

Anyway, I look forward some help to get me on the right track, maybe I should take a few days off to let my head clear. Part of the problem may be the fact that it's been cloudy and snowing and we haven't had any clear nights since I started this venture so I haven't been able to get any star time in, I have just been trying to make this all work in the house.

 

I would like to incorporate autoguiding and plate solving as well to avoid the lengthy 3 star alignment process. Once I get a handle on this and everything working, my plan is to go remote and use a mini PC and remote desktop to run the sessions, but that is a ways off.

 

Thank you in advance for any help you may be able to offer.

Cheers

i'll make it easy!

 

NINA +astap (for platesolving) (free)

image acquisition + computer control

SIRIL (free)

for stacking and editing

PHD2 (free)

for guiding

 

ASCOM are the drivers and i believe you need EQmod for your mount (dont quote me i'm unfamiliar with the mount)

 

That'll give you enough to work on for a week or two or all year smile.gif


Edited by Andros246, 11 December 2023 - 04:22 PM.

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#6 Alex McConahay

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 07:10 PM

I'm going to do a tutorial about this topic someday. Put it on YouTUbe. 

 

You need several types of software:

 

Target Definition.......This helps you choose targets. You do not need anything specific for this. Even cruising through the Beginner's or Experienced section on CN here (or Astrobin, or books of 101 great astroimages) will show you what other people are taking pictures of. However, there are programs that let you say what day it is (time of year) and show you all the targets you might consider. I would suggest you start with Gary Imm's collection, and peruse that. Its free. (although you can make a scholarship donation!) https://youtu.be/cKA3bLjiHC4

 

Acquisition....This helps you while actually planning and executing a session. It is what you need to control the camera, data storage, and all that. My favorite is Sequence Generator Pro. The other (and perhaps leading, because it is free,) is N.I.N.A. There are many others. 

 

Processing....This makes the data you gathered into the pictures. . PixInsight is what all the big imagers in the field use. The more experienced  (older) ones use Photoshop. Many use a combination of both.  There are a number of other alternatives. I will let others extol the virtues of all the choices. But I do believe that if you really want to do this, you learn PixInsight. ALL of them are strange, and PixInsight sure earns this description. But, ALL of them are strange and offputting until you get to know them. But, if you ignore most of PixInsight and  all the things it can do, and just do the things you need to do to get a picture, it is really simple to progress. 

 

Ancillary software...... This could include special software to run your mount, and all the software that configures your equipment and allows it to communicate. It could include specialized processing software (like Gradient or Noise Exterminator). It could include archiving software to keep track of your progress. 

 

If I were starting off now (but knowing what I know about how to do it all), I would go with Imm's Compendium, NINA, and PixInsight (and whatever is needed in the way of ASCOM and other tools (PHD2, ASTAP Plate Solving) to configure and operate your equipment). You will probably not need to look back. 

 

Alex


Edited by Alex McConahay, 11 December 2023 - 08:03 PM.

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#7 Kilohertz

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 07:14 PM

Thanks guys, appreciate the detailed replies.

 

Just got home from work so I need to digest this all and go thru the programs I have and look up the recommended ones. 

 

Nobody mentioned Stellarium, which I am getting quite familiar with and really like it's ability to zoom around the sky and see what the objects will look like framed. What can Stellarium do as far as all the required AP data acquisition functions needed? Just curious, I have read it can be a one stop shop for AP.

 

Watching for replies.

Cheers 



#8 Alex McConahay

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 07:31 PM

>>>>>>really like it's ability to zoom around the sky and see what the objects will look like framed.

 

That is what I called "target definition"software. 

 

>>>>>>>What can Stellarium do as far as all the required AP data acquisition functions needed?

 

Can it even be connected to a camera or focuser? If it cannot, it cannot help with acquisition.

 

Alex


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#9 Robert7980

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 07:51 PM

N.I.N.A 

PHD2

Sharpcap ( Setup and maintenance )

ASTAP ( For troubleshooting and maintenance )

Stellarium 

 

Green Swamp Server ( EQ6 mount ) 

PixInsight 

 

That’s my stable of software, been pretty happy with it… 


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#10 danny1976

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 08:11 PM



Nobody mentioned Stellarium, which I am getting quite familiar with and really like it's ability to zoom around the sky and see what the objects will look like framed. What can Stellarium do as far as all the required AP data acquisition functions needed? Just curious, I have read it can be a one stop shop for AP.

You can connect Stellarium with APT with the Remote Control plugin. Makes it easy to see how you’re framed, especially for the faint targets. Just hit the Show command.

 

You can also transfer Ra/Dec coordinates from Stellarium to APT. I use this a lot when imaging a comet.

 

Just hit shift+Objects and the coordinates are transferred and then you do a goto++.

APT-Show-command.jpg


Edited by danny1976, 11 December 2023 - 08:20 PM.

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#11 Kilohertz

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 08:21 PM

>>>>>>really like it's ability to zoom around the sky and see what the objects will look like framed.

 

That is what I called "target definition"software. 

 

>>>>>>>What can Stellarium do as far as all the required AP data acquisition functions needed?

 

Can it even be connected to a camera or focuser? If it cannot, it cannot help with acquisition.

 

Alex

 

Well there ya go, I learned something very important, Stellarium is a great planning piece of software but after reading several sections of the extensive manual I find that all the camera and lens and eyepiece data entry screens are just for the "what you will see in your camera" image, it doesn't actually capture. It does drive my mount very nicely though, I don't think it can do plate solving?? Will need to read more.

 

Ok, I'll look into the recommended software in more detail. We have a week of clouds and snow coming so I will have some time to play and learn. Is there a way to set all this up and make some tests without actually being outside on a clear night?

 

Cheers


Edited by Kilohertz, 11 December 2023 - 08:28 PM.


#12 Alex McConahay

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 08:40 PM

Well there ya go, I learned something very important, Stellarium is a great planning piece of software but after reading several sections of the extensive manual I find that all the camera and lens and eyepiece data entry screens are just for the "what you will see in your camera" image, it doesn't actually capture. It does drive my mount very nicely though, I don't think it can do plate solving?? Will need to read more.

 

Ok, I'll look into the recommended software in more detail. We have a week of clouds and snow coming so I will have some time to play and learn. Is there a way to set all this up and make some tests without actually being outside on a clear night?

 

Cheers

>>>>>I don't think it can do plate solvin

If it cannot take pictures, it cannot make a plate, and therefore cannot center using plate solving.  On the other hand, any piece of acquisition software worth anything can take the picture, send it to a plate solver, and get your answer, which includes redirecting your scope until it is where it is supposed to be. 

 

>>>>>>Is there a way to set all this up and make some tests without actually being outside on a clear night?

 

Yes, just install, configure, connect, and run. It will not take very good pictures and won't guide at all if it cannot see the sky, but you can tell if it runs the scope and camera, if it tries to take pictures, and all that in the warmth of your living room. 

 

Alex


Edited by Alex McConahay, 11 December 2023 - 08:41 PM.

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#13 rsalva1

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 10:16 PM

A simple solution is to use ZWO’s ASIAir Pro or something similar such as Stellarmate or Astroberry.


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#14 Kilohertz

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 10:48 PM

A simple solution is to use ZWO’s ASIAir Pro or something similar such as Stellarmate or Astroberry.

ASIAir restricts use to only ZWO cameras, I already have my cameras, non ZWO. 

 

I'll look into the other ones you mentioned.

 

Thx



#15 Kilohertz

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 11:36 PM

Add ASTAP for platesolving. Best thing since sliced bread

Do you or anyone else here have the user manual in pdf that you could link or post or email me?  I can't find it on the website.

 

Please and thanks.


Edited by Kilohertz, 11 December 2023 - 11:36 PM.


#16 idclimber

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Posted 12 December 2023 - 01:20 AM

Do you or anyone else here have the user manual in pdf that you could link or post or email me?  I can't find it on the website.

 

Please and thanks.

There is a section for documentation on this website. https://www.hnsky.org/astap#index



#17 Kilohertz

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Posted 12 December 2023 - 01:28 AM

There is a section for documentation on this website. https://www.hnsky.org/astap#index

Could you please point me to the pdf file? I don't see it.

 

Thx



#18 gsaramet

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Posted 12 December 2023 - 01:42 AM

 

 

Nobody mentioned Stellarium, which I am getting quite familiar with and really like it's ability to zoom around the sky and see what the objects will look like framed. What can Stellarium do as far as all the required AP data acquisition functions needed? Just curious, I have read it can be a one stop shop for AP.

 

I tried hard not to mention it, but you had to scratch the wound ;)

 

You don't need it; it created problems for me and for a few other people. Plan using telescopius.com or NINA sky atlas. Or indeed, the excellent Imm compendium. Plate solve and you'll always be on target, pixel perfect. Why do you want to use a planetarium software for astrophotography?



#19 bobzeq25

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Posted 12 December 2023 - 01:46 AM

As long as people are throwing out alternatives.   I use Voyager for data acquisition, it's an alternative to NINA.  Its advantages are below the reference.

 

https://software.starkeeper.it/

 

It has multiple modes.   The simplest mode ("on the fly") is just about as simple as NINA, and somewhat more capable.  It's the only mode I ever use.  Voyager was designed by an imager for utter reliability, while unattended.  It looks at your subexposures as they come in, and can automatically fix some errors.

 

The most advanced mode can do everything but reach out to you and make you feel good.  <smile>  It's a program that you can use simply at first, and you will NEVER outgrow it.

 

The number of autofocus options is unmatched.  I like Robostar.  It can be set to focus using a number of triggers, such as time interval.  When that expires, it stops the sequence, moves to an optimal focus star nearby (it has a catalog), centers it, and focuses.  Then moves back to exactly where it was, and picks up the sequence.  So you're focused, very accurately, dead center in the frame.

 

There are other options.

 

There's a 45 day fully functional free trial.  Buy the program, and you get support, including the possibility of a Teamviewer session where the designer is alongside you (the wonder of the Internet) and helping you out.  I've never needed that.

 

The program you buy never expires.  There's an annual fee for getting the latest version, and more support.

 

Here's some documentation.

 

https://wiki.starkee...x.php/Main_Page

 

Look at the website.  In my experience, that's not hype.


Edited by bobzeq25, 12 December 2023 - 01:55 AM.

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#20 Spaceman 56

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Posted 12 December 2023 - 03:10 AM

did anyone suggest starting with a DSLR, No Software and an Intervalometer ?

 

it worked for me. Much simpler.  smile.gif


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#21 gsaramet

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Posted 12 December 2023 - 04:29 AM

did anyone suggest starting with a DSLR, No Software and an Intervalometer ?

 

it worked for me. Much simpler.  smile.gif

The two reasons for which I believe the "no software" approach is not really a great idea are plate solving and guiding. 


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#22 Kilohertz

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Posted 12 December 2023 - 11:06 AM

did anyone suggest starting with a DSLR, No Software and an Intervalometer ?

 

it worked for me. Much simpler.  smile.gif

Thanks!

 

This is certainly on my radar, I have a nice Lumix G7 and all attachments to connect to my scope as well as some nice lenses, dovetail bars to mount it on the NEQ3 etc. I can either use the Synscan unit or one of the EQMOD programs to drive the mount, which I have working now.

 

Cheers


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#23 alancorey1979

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Posted 12 December 2023 - 11:19 AM

My two cents

 

APT and your choice of pre and post processing software. You'll need ASPS and ASTAP for the platesolving.

 

Aside from that... APT is one stop shop. GOTO++ is possibly the greatest script ever created by mankind. Add it with automated scripts and suddenly you have a sweet set up that can rival imaging rigs worth 10 times more than yours.

 

AND... APT has a time unlimited trial that is practically full feature use. I like it so much, I paid the 25 euros or whatever it was for the full version.


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#24 archer1960

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Posted 12 December 2023 - 11:20 AM

did anyone suggest starting with a DSLR, No Software and an Intervalometer ?

 

it worked for me. Much simpler.  smile.gif

When I saw the title of the thread, I thought exactly this; it's exactly how I got started. When I wanted more sophisticated capability, I tried APT, NINA, and  SGP before I settled on Voyager. My biggest reason was  mentioned above, the unmatched autofocus capability and robust error handling. Now that NINA has added some capability in the AF area, I'm planning on taking another look at it as well.


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#25 archer1960

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Posted 12 December 2023 - 11:42 AM

Thanks!

 

This is certainly on my radar, I have a nice Lumix G7 and all attachments to connect to my scope as well as some nice lenses, dovetail bars to mount it on the NEQ3 etc. I can either use the Synscan unit or one of the EQMOD programs to drive the mount, which I have working now.

 

Cheers

If you have a 2nd camera, you can shoot both wide and narrow shots of the same piece of sky, if you can mount your Lumix on or beside your main OTA. I do this all the time with my Canon T3i usually with a 200mm prime lens and a dedicated astro cam on my RC at 2000mm.


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